Starting Out as an Indie Author: Be Willing to Make Changes

More than once in this series, I have pointed out the things an author might want to take a critical look at if her book isn’t selling — assuming she is doing the marketing work to get the word out in the first place, that is. 🙂 Without regular marketing, all the fabulous book blurbs and pretty covers are nothing, since no one will see them. (If you have not yet read my post about what to do if your books aren’t selling, it’s available here.)

The simple summary is this: in my opinion, the most important things standing between an author and a sale are:

– A less-than-gripping book description
– A cover that isn’t compelling enough
– First pages that don’t make the reader eager for more

I admit up front that I have never rewritten the first pages of a novel to give it more of the character of a hook that will lead to a sale. But I have switched stories around in a collection to see if the new first pages will result in better sales. And I have revamped descriptions more than once, along with keywords and all that comes with it.

But changing descriptions and keywords is relatively easy. The work (and possibly expense) involved in changing covers is something else again. Nonetheless, I have done it a few times. Here are a couple of covers I’ve changed:

The cover for Mars was a new one when I finally published the short story to Amazon, so I have no comparisons there, but with The Future, Imperfect, sales increased dramatically after I changed the cover.

If you are doing regular marketing and your sales are still flagging, I strongly recommend running your covers by a new site, Rate Book Cover, to see what readers totally unconnected to you think of your cover.

Naturally, I have to test these things myself. Since sales for Chameleon in a Mirror have been limping along recently, I decided to upload it.

It flunked out.

Okay, not completely. It got an average of three stars out of five. But that is not good enough. Over a third rated the cover average, and even more rated it either poor or awful. Most of the readers in the last two categories are probably not going to click on that cover, and I’m assuming quite a few who rated it average are lost to me as well.

I still like the cover. But I can see how it might be too busy for some readers. And since Chameleon in a Mirror is a book of my heart, I think it deserves some experimenting.

I started out with two considerations: 1) The book plays with literary history; 2) It’s a time travel.

For #1, it occurred to me that a number of novels that revolve around thought experiments involving historical figures use art in the public domain in their covers. So I started searching for paintings of women gazing into mirrors. I would have preferred something from the same period as the novel, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Instead, I went for John William Waterhouse. The result is the cover at the beginning of this post.

For #2, I went to Amazon and searched for “time travel.” Going through several pages of results, and ignoring the time travel romances, I noticed that a lot of the better selling books have a background with clockworks or a clock face. So for a cover emphasizing time travel, here’s what I came up with:

I don’t regard either of the covers as “finished” yet — I still need to work on type and layout, among other things. But once I’m satisfied with them, I’ll upload both to the Rate Book Cover site to see if they can get better reader ratings than what I have now. I also intend to upload all three to the cover comparison site, Help me choose a cover. Unfortunately, that one doesn’t get very much traffic.

If all of the covers get bad ratings, I will keep trying. My goal is to come up with a cover that gets an average rating of at least 4, meaning more positive reactions than negative. Once I have a compelling cover, I’ll upload the new one and then schedule a promotion for the book, so I can see if the results are better than with the previous cover.

I’m not looking forward to another rash of “awful” ratings, *g* but I figure if I can get an idea of reader reactions before I upload a new cover, it might save me time on the promotion end. The truth can be harsh, like the reader feedback I got for our first Chameleon cover, but now that I know, I can work on coming up with a better cover for the book, one that grabs the readers CIAM was meant to reach. 🙂

One of the freedoms of being an indie author is that we have control over every aspect of the book, from editing to appearance to marketing. By the same token, we also have responsibility for every aspect of the book.

For that reason, we need to be willing to recognize errors in judgment and make changes accordingly. I intend to slowly start uploading all my covers to the Rate Book Cover site — one at a time, since I don’t have tons of extra time to start working on new covers or finding new cover artists.

Oh, and please feel free to let me know what you think of the new designs. For the sake of comparison, here’s the old:

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