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Old 04-18-2010, 01:51 AM   #1
LeeGoldberg
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The Cover is Everything

The following is an email exchange between me and bestselling Kindle author Joe Konrath earlier this month:
TO: LEE GOLDBERG

FROM: JOE KONRATH

If I were you, I'd rename all the .357 Vigilante books getting rid of ".357" and "Vigilante" in their titles. The new covers should be generic--maybe a gun or some sort of weapon as the central image--but they should also tie together as a brand. And they should be done by an artist. Maybe a friend (you must have graphic artist friends) or maybe you can hold a contest on your blog. I'm convinced your covers and titles (which scream "Men's Action") are holding
back sales of this fun series.

TO: JOE KONRATH

FROM: LEE GOLDBERG

I'm not sure that changing the covers for .357 VIGILANTE (or the titles) will help. The books are what they are -- pulpy, mens action adventure novels from the 1980s. That is their appeal...and their drawback.

TO: LEE GOLDBERG

FROM: JOE KONRATH

Give me $XYZ. I'll give it to my graphic artist to redo the covers for the Vigilante books. Let me retitle them and do the product descriptions, and I bet your sales go up at least 25% in a two month period (compared to your last two months of sales.) If they don't, I'll give you the $XYZ back, and you get the covers for free. That's how sure I am those books will sell with the right packaging.

TO: JOE KONRATH

FROM: LEE GOLDBERG

You have a deal!
So I sat back and let Joe have his way with my books. Here's the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE:


And here is what he did with it:



Here is the original cover for .357 VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY:


And here is what he did with it:


Here's the original cover I cobbled together for .357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY, an omnibus collection of all four .357 VIGILANTE books:


Here's the revamp I did for it last month:


And here's what Joe did:


It's only a little past mid-month, but already it's clear that he's won the bet and his repackaging is a success.

Last month, 357 VIGILANTE sold 59 copies or about 2 copies a day. This month, with the new title and cover, it has already sold 46 copies, or about 3 copies a day. It remains to be seen whether that pace of sales will continue for the rest of the month. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY sold 39 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has already topped that by selling 43 copies. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #3: WHITE WASH sold 23 copies last month. So far this month, with the new title and cover, it has sold 27 copies. But wait...

.357 VIGILANTE #4: KILLSTORM sold 14 copies last month. But with the new title and cover, it has sold 48 copies. That's right, the sales have more than tripled and the month isn't over yet. But wait, it gets even better...

.357 VIGILANTE: DIE MR. JURY sold 20 copies last month and now, with the new title and cover, it has sold 47 copies...the sales have more than doubled and the month isn't over yet. What's really surprising about this bump is that the book is priced at $4.99, making it the most expensive of my previously published/out-of-print titles on the Kindle. They aren't buying it because it's cheaper than everything else out there...I believe they are doing it because they think they are getting a great deal, four books for the price of one, a point Joe hammered home on the new cover far more effectively (and clearly) than I did on the old ones.

Based on these results, I quickly reworked the covers of my previously publishing/out-of-print booksMY GUN HAS BULLETS, THREE WAYS TO DIE and BEYOND THE BEYOND (retitling it DEAD SPACE) to take advantage of what I learned from the bet and from Joe's example.

What did I learn?

1. Your covers should have a clear, simple, striking image that will still pop out when the cover is reduced to the size of a postage stamp.

2. Your covers need to have a consistent, branded look.

3. Don't be afraid to experiment, to rethink everything about how your book is presented: the title, the cover art, the categories its listed under, the way you describe it, the way you've priced it. Just because your book has been posted, that doesn't mean it's been carved in stone and can't be altered. You need to adapt to find your audience. In other words, you can't just post your book on the Kindle and leave it. Your book will continue to need attention and, if necessary, updating to stoke sales.

Last edited by LeeGoldberg; 04-18-2010 at 02:07 AM.
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:57 AM   #2
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As I mentioned above, I've taken Joe Konrath's advice and have been tinkering quite a bit with my covers...and discovering that it makes a big difference in sales. Here was my original cover for MY GUN HAS BULLETS:


It was the dust jacket on my hardcover and I didn't own the rights to the art, so I asked my sister to create a new cover for me. I loved what she came up with. I thought it looked classy and professional. Here it is:


But I wasn't selling as many copies as I thought I could. I just assumed people weren't responding to the book. But Joe blamed the cover, he said it was too bleak, too busy, it didn't pop. So as much as I liked that cover, I put the old one up for a while. Sales went up slightly, which got me thinking maybe another change couldn't hurt. So I created a new cover myself using stock photos (which I licensed) and Microsoft Paint It...

And sales have shot up. I sold 204 copies of MY GUN last month and I am already up to 170 this month. That means I've gone from selling about six copies-a-day to ten. Encouraged, I've changed the cover and title of BEYOND THE BEYOND. Here's the original cover



Here's the second one I tried:




And here's the one I have now.


I sold 70 copies last month...and I am already up to 60 now. I am still not selling as many as I would like, but at least it's cropping up. The new cover has only been up for a few days, so it's too soon to tell how it will pan out.

Meanwhile, again on Joe's advice, I scrapped the cover of THREE WAYS TO DIE. Here's the original:




And here's the first version of the new one, which was up last month:




And here's what I've got now, which has only been up for a week or two:


In addition to spiffing up the cover, I also jacked up the price from 99 cents to $1.99. As of today, I've sold 109 copies...so I am on track to sell just as many copies as last month (207) but I'll earn more money. I think the new cover has a lot to do with it.

I've also played with the cover of THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE. Here's the publisher's cover:


Here's the first one I put up last month:




And here's the revised cover I've got up now.


I sold 160 copies in March, so far I've sold 145 this month. Sales are definitely up. This is shaping up to be my biggest Kindle month ever. As of 7 pm tonight, I have earned $810 in royalties this month. If sales continue at this rate, and that's a big if, I could reach about $1400 by the end of April. But I will certainly top the nearly $1000 I earned in March. And all of this on books that were out-of-print, gathering dust on a shelf.

Last edited by LeeGoldberg; 04-18-2010 at 03:29 AM.
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Old 04-18-2010, 03:21 AM   #3
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You can't judge a book by the cover, as the old cliche goes, Lee: But I'm pretty sure readers do browse by the cover (otherwise, why is cover-out display space at B&M stores considered prime?) It's the book's shop window and lures folks to the big sales pitch, which is back cover (or teaser text where ebooks are concerned). My own wee house signed up a new cover artist a few months ago and there's a marked improvement in new title sales. We're now back-tracking to re-cover some older titles (starting with books in series). It'll be interesting to see -- as you have -- if sales of existing titles increase with new art and design up front. Good luck. Neil
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Old 04-18-2010, 04:46 AM   #4
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I never judge a book by its cover... If I don't like the description/sample I won't buy... I buy the book for the words.
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Old 04-18-2010, 10:50 AM   #5
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Is that Joe Friday on the cover of Three Ways to Die?

I'm glad it's working for you. Joe Konrath has a lot of experience and it was really nice of him to give you so much help.

My covers are all classical artwork from the public domain. I've already picked out the painting for my next book. It's a theme I'm going to stick with for now. The paintings set the mood for the words inside since I write historicals.
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:15 PM   #6
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Lee:

That's a fascinating tutorial. Thanks!!
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MargaretLake View Post
Is that Joe Friday on the cover of Three Ways to Die?

I'm glad it's working for you. Joe Konrath has a lot of experience and it was really nice of him to give you so much help.

My covers are all classical artwork from the public domain. I've already picked out the painting for my next book. It's a theme I'm going to stick with for now. The paintings set the mood for the words inside since I write historicals.
But are your books selling with those covers? Just because you write historicals that doesn't mean your covers need to be dusty old oil paintings.

Lee
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lene1949 View Post
I never judge a book by its cover... If I don't like the description/sample I won't buy... I buy the book for the words.
Yes, but what gets you to those description and sample? The title, the cover and, perhaps, the author if you are already familiar with his work. The cover gets you there, but the description and sample seal the deal.

Lee
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:24 PM   #9
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This is very interesting. Since I've started buying more ebooks than treebooks, I don't look at the covers as much as I look at the description. If the description has errors, I won't buy it. But a nicely done cover definitely justifies raising the price, I think.
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:40 PM   #10
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Lee, I'll have to admit that the new covers are more appealing. They catch my "eye" much more than the originals.

I think a well done cover does catch my attention and cause me stop and check the "blurb".

Joe is a member of MR and spoke of how he asked for advice about ebook formats beyond pdf from another MR member, Boyd Morrison. They both are doing very well.

What a great experiment that turned out better than expected. Good Luck..
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Old 04-18-2010, 02:06 PM   #11
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With p-books it was certainly the cover that made me notice it (and once in a rare while, a review) and pick it up. Obviously it was the content that sold the book to me, but that first contact is visual. A little less so with e-books - but I do often filter a lot based on how professional the cover looks. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I still do anyway.

In your case, all the covers look professional, both before and after images but as you have noticed youself, some work better in a small size than others. It was interesting to see.
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Old 04-18-2010, 05:56 PM   #12
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I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but it's the first step in the buying decision. The cover catches the attention and hopefully the jacket blurb seals the deal.
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Old 04-18-2010, 06:37 PM   #13
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Sort of sad that generic, no-message covers sell better than descriptive covers that relate to the content. I agree that cover art is, for lack of a better word, art. What works for a cover may not really be particularly related to the content if it's an effective design. In my experience, grabbing the eyeball in that fraction of a second your cover is on the screen or in the bookstore, is what it's all about.

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Old 04-18-2010, 06:54 PM   #14
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Thanks for the examples, Lee!

Everyone says they don't buy a book based on the cover, but let's face it - the title and the cover are what gets them to look at anything else. (Honestly, does anybody here actually read EVERY book description on Amazon? Really? No, they read the book descriptions of the books that caught their eye through title, cover, or maybe rank in the genre.)

I'm experimenting with my oddball books before I get out there with more commercial stuff, so it's really hard to take lessons from what I'm doing. People either love or hate my title (and unfortunately, it's turning out that the people who love the title are people who have already read the book which kinda takes it out of the running as a marketing tool). I've had people tell me that they didn't like the title, but when they saw the cover, they decided to buy it anyway.

Here's a question: when you changed the title, did Amazon and/or Smashwords let you just change it, or did they treat it as a new book? (I've got a little marketing going out there, and if I were to change the title, I worry that those efforts would be lost - but if the links at the same that would be okay.)

I'm thinking of changing it to "The Wife of Freedom" since that actually fits thematically too.



Camille
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Old 04-18-2010, 09:05 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by DaringNovelist View Post
Thanks for the examples, Lee!

Here's a question: when you changed the title, did Amazon and/or Smashwords let you just change it, or did they treat it as a new book?

Camille
I was able to change the title and the covers on both Amazon and Smashwords with no problem whatsoever. They did not treat them as new books.

Lee

Last edited by LeeGoldberg; 04-19-2010 at 12:40 AM.
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