Book Cover Experimentation

If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll find a link out to the blog of Joe Konrath. Joe is an author who worked his ass off for years to publish the traditional way, until finally switching over to self-publishing, and hitting it big in a huge way. He's the guy every self-published author wants to emulate (his success anyway), and his advice has a lot of meaning to me. One piece of his advice that I often keep in mind (paraphrased): "If something you're doing isn't working, try something else"

I launched His Dark Empire about a month ago. Compared to Balance, it's been a little bit of a disappointment, as it hasn't sold anywhere near the levels my first title did. Why not? I don't know for sure. Maybe traditional fantasy isn't in as high demand as urban? Maybe the story isn't enticing? Maybe the book just isn't that good?

I think the book is good, and my wife thought it was better than any of the Divine books (she doesn't ready fantasy in general, so for her to read it through in one day says something to me). But... it's also VERY different from Balance. I'm not sure there is too much overlap between audiences, and in some sense I'm starting from scratch.. which is fine.

There are also probably a lot of new authors out there who would love to sell 100+ books in a month. I don't want to come off as whining, because I'm not unhappy. What I am is curious.

I see the sales as a combination of a few things:

1. Visibility 2. Intriguing blurb 3. Attention-grabbing cover 4. Strong opening (i.e. look inside the book)

As far as #1 goes, the first 30 days of a new book is the best it's probably ever going to get.. which is why it is important to me to try to make as good of a showing as I can during that time.

#2 ... I've struggled with this for HDE. I know what the story is, but while the pace is fast, the build is gradual. I feed you information slowly to build suspense, mystery, and intrigue. That makes the description hard, because I don't want to give too much away.

#3 ... I like my original cover but... when I see it in the 'Customers Also Bought' with the other covers... I don't know that it grabs your attention. It's so dark, I think it just gets lost in the mix.

#4 ... I did my best :)

As you can see, #2 and #3 are the two factors I have some control over. I've experimented with the blurb, and some have definitely performed better than others, but I don't feel like I'm there yet. I'm trying version #4 out now.

Cover... now that is one area I want to test, to see if there is any kind of improvement by making it more eye-catching. I'll post a follow up once I have some data, but in the meantime, here is the before and after:

His Dark Empire
His Dark Empire

As you can see, I lightened it up A LOT, and also gave it a burst of color(red) that hopefully will draw the eye. Finally, it's a bit different for a Fantasy book cover (but then again, I think the first one is also)... we'll see if that winds up being a detriment.

I have to say, I am a little concerned that men might reject it, because of the prominent use of the female head, though I'm hoping the run of blood under the 'eye' might sway it back into masculine coolness.

What do you think? Is the new cover an improvement? Do you think it's too feminine, and you wouldn't go near it?