A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it

How important is a book’s cover? Well, for an answer, The Midwest Book Review rejects books submitted for review if the cover doesn’t measure up to traditional industry standards. Midwest reviewers do not bother to open those books. They go in the recycle bin.

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, I attended the January meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club to hear a presentation by Jim Azevedo, the Marketing Director of Smashwords. The title of his presentation was “The Secrets to Ebook Self-Publishing Success”. With a Power Point Presentation that had 72 screen shots, he focused on ten secrets, and the one that grabbed my attention was #2, Creating a SUPBERB cover image.

It was soon obvious to me that a book’s cover was probably one of the most important steps to publishing success after writing a riveting story that is professionally edited, because more than 26% of the presentation focused on the importance of an attention grabbing book cover that makes promises about the story.

Azevedo provided a case study of one cover that went through four changes. During the metamorphosis of this book’s cover from dull to boring, then interesting to sexy and hot, it was barely selling.

It wasn’t until the sexy and hot fourth cover in the sixth month that the novel took off and became an Apple iBoostore #5 bestseller, and today the book has been a New York Times Best Seller and is still selling well on Amazon—when I checked while writing this post, it was ranked #466 in competition with more than 12-million titles on Amazon.

The book I’m talking about is Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson, and on Amazon it currently has a 4.5 average from 1,128 customer reviews. If you check out the paperback, you’ll discover cover number three (there were two clovers before #3 that are not worth seeing).

What does that #466 rank mean? The one-time “My Splendid Concubine” hit #56 on Amazon, it sold more than 2,000 copies in 24 hours. On January 13, Tuesday, the same novel sold three copies and was ranked #114,722.

Anyway, Smashwords’ Jim Azevedo got me thinking. The cover of my second novel, Running with the Enemy, wasn’t promising what readers would find in the story compared to the winning book covers that I saw in the presentation.

Now I have generated several choices to replace the current second e-book cover of “Running with the Enemy” (the paperback still has the first cover), and anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.

If you decide to take part in helping me select a better cover for “Running with the Enemy”, there are four choices. Please indicate your choice in a comment. Thank you. To help you make a choice, I’ve copied after the five new cover choices the most helpful review on Amazon in addition to what a Writer’s Digest Judge said about the novel. In addition, if none of them work better than the current e-book cover, then I will return to the Adobe Elements editor and get back to work. The drawing for the winner will be held on February 1, 2015.

FIRST ROUND OF CHOICES

Resized and Low Res 4  Covers for Voting on 1-17

“Lloyd Lofthouse describes his book Running with the Enemy as a memoir that evolved into fiction. As a Vietnam veteran who had seen and experienced enough to leave him with post-traumatic stress disorder, he wrote this book it seems to come to terms with all he experienced in Vietnam. The book became fiction, an action novel with a strong romance component.

“Overall it rings true of war and what it was like to serve in Vietnam. Much of the book details the fighting, the casualties and the heartbreak and the trauma experienced by the soldiers. The book also takes you on a dizzying journey when the lovers Tuyen and Ethan flee to other countries in Southeast Asia – Laos, Cambodia, Bangkok, Thailand ,and Burma (Myanmar).

“For those who would like to get a sense of what combat was really like, this is an excellent book, which began as a memoir of Vietnam.” – A Novel of Combat by Harvee L.

“Obviously drawn from the author’s first-hand experiences as a Marine serving in Vietnam, Running with the Enemy is a rough but occasionally heartfelt war story. … The book is sometimes too obviously drawn from his experience. But ultimately that’s a small complaint about a book that, on the whole, is quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of the conflict .”  – 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards commentary from an anonymous judge

Note: This novel—awarded Honorable Mentions in four literary contests and a genre Runner-Up in a fifth literary contest—was targeted by a flock of Goodreads trolls at the time of its publication. Here is the review from one of the Trolls, that I linked to the group of Goodreads bullies, who  never bought or read the novel and gave it one-star on Amazon in an attempt to sabotage its sales and my reputation.

“Lofthouse’s attempt at a 60’s-era thriller is cliched, trite and rather boring. If you’re looking for a good read, check out Graham Greene’s Quiet American instead.” – Miss M

SECOND ROUND OF CHOICES on 1-22-2015

Thanks to comments and suggestions the choice has narrowed down to two covers. They look similar but both have different images on the top third of each cover—which one works best?

Low Res January 22 - two choices

 THIRD ROUND OF CHOICES ON 1-24-15

These two choices are based on the majority of comments from both Twitter and this post.

Jan 24 Low Def Final two choices of New Cover

FOURTH ROUND on 1-25-15

This may be the final cover. There were two more suggestions after I posted the choices for the third round. One suggestion was for a compromise between A & B, and the second suggestion was to take the kissing couple and make them partially opaque/transparent. I used the burn tool on Adobe Elements to take away some of the brightness in the stars and scanned the couple with the Eraser set at 5% Opacity. I started at 20% Opacity and worked down to 5% in several stages, and discovered that anything more than 5% and the lovers started to vanish into the starry sky. This cover revision is still open for suggestions until February 1, 2015, and I thank everyone who is taking part in the process.

Low Res Final  Cover on Jan 25

The Winner of the Drawing for February 1, 2015 was:

Poetic Justice
@ http://poeticjusticect.com/

The details of the giveaway were:

“anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they don’t offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His fourth novel is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Book Cover and Blurb to use in promotions

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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24 thoughts on “A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it

  1. I hope you don’t hate me for this, but I used to be in Graphics. Did you try “with the” and “Enemy,” in black letters? There’s a natural hesitation between running and the second part of the title. “With the Enemy” should be linked together visually. Just a thought!

    • Thank you. I’m always open for constructive suggestions. It’s just possible that this cover will be updated again. And I have to admit that the cover I like best is the one where they couple at the top is hugging and not kissing. I don’t know why, but I just do. The vote though leaned heavily in favor of the kissing couple and it seems the brighter star background is not as popular as the darker star background.

  2. Third round? Choice A, for one reason. The color on top makes it “pop” a little more and when dealing with a thumbnail glance (as many readers do) that could make the difference.

  3. Pingback: A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it | The Soulful Veteran's Blog

  4. Hi Lloyd, I like your ideas and blog post about the cover. I’m a Pro-Photographer, and a photography blog writer. I’ve designed & edited books for a number of years. The illustrations on C seem right for your story line, but the text needs to be white for more contrast. Have the text sit between the images, as on D. I’d use the C illustrations, drop the image on the bottom lower part, but keep the balance 1/3 for the image space on top, and 2/3 for the image space on the bottom, like C. You could have your name slightly smaller in size on the beach below. Good Luck with your Cover! You can find me on twitter @anne_barkley

  5. Graphically C is the best choice for me. I know you need to have the picture of the lovers but – I think he cover would be better with just the action photo.

    i look forward to reading this Lloyd.

  6. Makes sense to change your cover. Perhaps the top photo of A, with the red writing of C, and the bottom of C. I am not one who looks at a cover in order to buy however. But just based on what tells the story of the content best…

  7. I like “A” for no explicable reason. I just like the way the colors (and the black & white) work together. Easy to read title and author name.

    B don’t like the background color.

    C is a bit busy.

    D would be my runner up and I like it almost as much as A.

    But I’m not a normal reader. I rarely even look at the cover of the book.

  8. I like C. It’s bright and catches the eye- and it is good for both the romance and the action sides of the book. Good luck, and I look forward to reading it.

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