Judging A Book By Its Cover

Whoever came up with the quote “Never judge a book by its cover” should have saved themselves the effort. ‘Cause, seriously, we all do it. There are SO many books on the market now. New releases and books that have been out for years. It would be great if we had the time to diligently read the backs, the book blurbs and the reviews. But we don’t have time. So the easiest way to sort through endless titles for something that looks promising to us, is covers.

I write small town contemporary romance. When I first envisioned possible covers for my Scallop Shores series, I thought I’d get something along the line of Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, a glimpse of the town, maybe a peek at the shoreline, that sort of thing. But unless you actually ARE Debbie Macomber or Susan Mallery, you don’t really get a say in how your covers are designed.

Crimson Romance told me they had a uniform “look” for their contemporary line. Okay. I get that. My first book, Drawn to Jonah, featured an okay looking guy with an adorable kid on the cover. He looked preppy and much older than the guy I’d written about. Not at all how I pictured Jonah, but this was my first book and I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted.

Pretend he's younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt - 'cause he's a handyman.

Pretend he’s younger, bigger muscles and wearing a white t-shirt – ’cause he’s a handyman.

Five of Hearts came out and while again, the guy on the cover did not match MY version of Dean Patterson, this guy was pretty hot. Sales for FoH were doing much better than sales for DTJ. Was it the cover, or was it the fact that it was a new release? I needed more info.

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No doubt this guy is hot, but I was picturing longer, sun-bleached blond hair. But he’ll do. He’ll do nicely.

 

Two months later, Wynter’s Journey was released. The original cover they gave me had a couple embracing, and while that was great, the man was SO ugly I burst into tears upon seeing the mock up. They replaced it with a picture of a red head standing alone. I felt it did a much better job representing the story of a woman embracing her new independent life and all the choices that came with it. However, sales for WJ were dismal at best. Was it the story line or the cover?

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She looks confident, ready to take on the world. I had hoped that would resonate with women readers, but… not so much.

 

In the meantime, I was busy cranking out my next book, and didn’t have any more new releases in 2014. So I could sit back and study the sales without wondering if the order it came on the market had any effect. It became more than clear that FoH was the best selling of any of my books. By far. And to be honest, I think that story is the most “out there”, in terms of story lines. He used to be in a boy band, for crying out loud! I really didn’t think that would interest anyone but me. Go figure.

Then I got the cover artwork for my latest release, Trapped in Tourist Town. I cried tears of joy this time! It featured the lighthouse from the town I grew up in. This book was the nearest and dearest to my heart and the cover was the perfect representation of that. And people dig lighthouses, right? They’ll see that gorgeous cover and ‘one click’ like mad people, right? Wrong.

Maybe if I hadn't hidden his cute face behind a camera???

Maybe if I hadn’t hidden his cute face behind a camera???

January sales for Five of Hearts beat out the new release of Trapped. February sales beat it out by FAR. So now I’m convinced it is the cover of FoH that is selling the book.

And with that in mind, I will push for a hot guy on the cover of my June release, Always My Hero. Because readers do judge a cover. And in this over saturated market, I need to find a way to compete. Unfortunately, I’ve set a precedent and my sweet books just wouldn’t look right with a shirtless man (more’s the pity!) on the cover. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a smokin’ hot guy to play the role of Ryan Pettridge, ex-football quarterback and single dad. Let’s see if Ryan can beat Dean for top spot in Scallop Shores’ hottest heroes.

I've had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.

I’ve had this taped above my desk as inspiration for Ryan.